Have you ever eaten at a restaurant during its grand opening weekend? The food is plentiful. Attention to detail is given throughout the establishment. Gracious hosts shower customers with affection. If you're lucky, you get the correct order, too.
It's almost impossible to get a true feel for a business during the opening week or even month. A better judgment can be cast several weeks later. At that time, the food and service are likely to settle into the typical zone where they will be for years to come.
The same can be said for our new ballpark. ONEOK Field opened with high marks and higher praise. Now that the dust has settled and paint has dried a bit, here is a new ballpark review sure to be more accurate than opening weekend's festival atmosphere.
Parking is much easier than ... let's say ... parking for the Tulsa QT Air Show this past weekend. One of the main talking points for Drillers' faithful and the organization was the parking quandary downtown. No issues of which to speak.
We entered through the oil rig entrance. Walking up to the park is a delight. The field appears set in a lower tier than street level. The Sunday afternoon affair offered a nice crowd and fabulous weather.
Here is a tidbit for casual fans. The big black tarp-covered wall behind centerfield has a purpose. Unlike every other facet at the ballpark, the purpose of the wall is not to entertain the fans.
Per baseball, all ballparks must have the black backdrop. This enables hitters to pick up the baseball coming off the pitchers hand. Did I know this? Not until I bumped into Drillers General Manager Mike Melega at the game.
Needless to say, it has been the most popular question asked during the first few home games. It's the only drab spot in the park.
The digital scoreboard towering over left field provides scoring, entertainment and a variety of information. Fans lounging in the left field grass will have to look elsewhere for the score. They can catch a smaller digital board along the third base side.
The open concourse fielded tons of food and drink options. Many fans mingled along the third base corridor. Turns out ONEOK Field might end up being one of Tulsa's favorite meet-and-greet locations. The diverse Drillers' fan base included youth ballplayers, teenagers on a date, families and a one-man army.
The home team rallied for a win this past Sunday. Extra innings delighted the partisan crowd. However, the on-field action seemed to be the least of the fans interest. In due time, the players will retake center stage but for now the park is the allure.
We can debate for years the merits of building a ballpark. We can argue about the location and a million other irrelevant details until the orange cones are off the streets. We can no longer argue about the beauty and downtown appeal of ONEOK Field.
The column would not be complete without one minor complaint. OK, it is a pretty big oversight.
For all the grandeur of the stadium, once you exit the confines, it seems like you've stepped backwards in time.
Signs of life are nonexistent. A U-Haul building and several vacant brick walls welcome baseball fans with crossed arms.
Wouldn't it behoove surrounding businesses to advertise a bit? How about a few banners or signs pointing the way to local establishments?
Regular downtown dwellers know the area. Many of the visitors are not familiar with the new location. Why not spend a few bucks and point them in the right direction?
Oklahoma is a high school football factory. After this past Sunday, we might want to add college football players to our list of exports.
The 2010 NFL Draft will forever be remembered as the year of the Sooners. Congratulations to Sam Bradford, Gerald McCoy, Trent Williams and Jermaine Gresham on achieving history.
Not to be outdone (well, a little outdone) was the Oklahoma State Cowboys contingent of Russell Okung and Dez Bryant. Both were first-round selections as well.
OU's first ever top-overall pick, Bradford, was selected by the St. Louis Rams. He'll now earn more money than 99 percent of all UTW readers. Color me jealous.
The jealousy ends when Bradford straps on the pads. Top picks always have an uphill battle. The team selecting first overall is usually drafting first for a reason.
However, the Rams are a notch below awful. The Putnam City North product is surrounded by little talent. The offensive line is the worst in the league. He'll have difficulties finding an open receiver due to the lack of talent on the outside. Steven Jackson is an above average running back. The question is how much does Jackson have left in the tank after carrying a putrid team the past few years. Rams ownership is in flux.
Here is an easy prediction. Tight end Jermaine Gresham will have the most productive year of any Oklahoma or Oklahoma State player taken in the 2010 draft. He goes to a team with a solid quarterback, viable rushing attack and a couple of above average receivers. He will find holes in the secondary as long as he learns the playbook and stays on the field.
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